SHIZUOKA – Shimizu S-Pulse dealt Gamba Osaka’s title hopes a stunning blow on Saturday after romping to a classy 3-1 win in the J. League.
Takuro Yajima put Shimizu on the way in the 13th minute and former Gamba star Fernandinho added the second before South Korean striker Cho Jae Jin killed off the visitors midway through the second half at Nihondaira Stadium.
With just four games left, Gamba trail leaders Urawa Reds by six points and the Reds could put one hand on the championship trophy they lifted for the first time last year with victory over Nagoya Grampus Eight on Sunday.
Urawa tops the table with 67 points, Gamba have 61 and Kashima Antlers (60) and Shimizu (56) follow in third and fourth.
Gamba’s Brazilian striker Bare should have marked his return from injury by heading the visitors into a fifth-minute lead and he was punished when Yajima drilled home the opener from close range.
Bare shot just wide and Shimizu defender Kazumichi Takagi was forced to hack off the line as Gamba tried to hit back, but Fernandinho doubled S-Pulse’s lead when he beat the offside trap and kept his head to slot past Yosuke Fujigaya seven minutes into the second half.
Victory was complete 11 minutes later as Cho headed home his 13th goal of the season from Jungo Fujimoto’s corner. Satoshi Yamaguchi headed a late consolation for Gamba.
Yuzo Tashiro bagged a double in Kashima’s 3-0 win at home to Oita Trinita.
At the other end of the table, Daigo Kobayashi struck a potentially priceless winner as Omiya Ardija dragged themselves out of the relegation mire with a 1-0 victory at already doomed Yokohama FC.
Kobayashi gave Omiya’s survival bid a major boost when he met Yusuke Murayama’s cross to score what proved to be the decider five minutes before halftime at Mitsuzawa Stadium.
Omiya moved above Sanfrecce Hiroshima into 15th in the 18-team table on 30 points.
Second-from-bottom Ventforet Kofu had Yuki Inoue sent off but ground out a 1-1 draw against Yokohama F. Marinos. FC Tokyo take on Kawasaki Frontale on Sunday.